Wednesday, August 17, 2011

best fig i ever tasted recipe

I was so nervous! I had a map of France on my lap and my eyes glued to the road. There I was driving a little red Puegeot by myself from one side of France to the other. Full of foie gras, duck confit and cassoulet, I'd just finished teaching a week of classes at La Combe in the Perigord and planned to stop and see my friend, Frances, who was living for the summer in Provence. This was a good stopping point before heading east to teach my next set of classes at La Foresteria Serego Alghieri outside Verona in Italy. And though I travel all over the world, and a lot of the time alone, I hated driving alone.

Frances was living in this huge winery estate working for Philipe Bieler, the owner of Chateau Routas. After a few wrong turns and lots of direction asking, I finally pulled into the driveway. No sooner had I parked my car when Frances and Philipe came bounding from the door.

"Do you want to taste the absolute best fig you've ever tasted in your life? Philipe asked.

Before I could get the words out of my mouth that a glass of water and loo were more to my liking, I was in the back seat of Philipe's 1950's open-air jeep heading down a dirt road and hanging on to the roll bar for dear life. Up and down hills, over horrendous bumps, I thought I might lose a kidney. Is this worth it for a fig, I thought?

"Here we are!" he said, as he parked the car on what seemed like the edge of a cliff, one of the wheels not even touching the ground.

I felt exactly like that precarious water glass balancing on a waiters tray,- that one person leaving the jeep just might throw the jeep down the ravine.

We scrambled down the hill and up another, over a fence and up another hill steeper than the last. And there on the precipice, was a lone fig tree that teetered over the edge.

“There’s the tree!” Philipe yelled out..

Dear God, how do we get to it, I thought. As I leaned over the cliff hanging onto a tree limb, I spotted three figs, one for each of us. I managed to pick them one by one and carefully pass them back to Frances and Philipe.

These figs were someplace between fresh and starting to shrivel, dry and crack. I took a bite of my fig, all warm from the sun, and realized that it was all worth it. This was the absolute best fig I’d ever eaten in my life.

Stay tuned for what happened that night!

Read more about figs: Grilled Figs with Honeyed Mascarpone The Best Fig Tart, ever


12 figs, halved, about 1 1/4 pounds
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups small grapes, if they are large, cut them in half
1 bunch frisee
1 small bulb fennel, thinly sliced
½ small head radicchio, torn into 2-inch pieces

Heat an outdoor charcoal grill. Brush the cut-side of the figs with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and set aside, cut-side up.

In a bowl, whisk together the 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sherry vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the frisee, fennel and radicchio in a bowl.

Place the figs a hot grill and grill until warmed and light golden, 3 to 4 minutes.

To serve, toss the salad greens with the dressing and grapes. Place on a large platter and scatter the figs onto the top.

Serves 6

Thursday, August 11, 2011

who doesn't love a BLT?

Especially when Gary Danko makes it!

Years ago, during a previous administration, I went to eat at the Ritz Carlton Dining Room knowing that Gary Danko was chef there. I'd met him a year earlier when Madeleine Kamman introduced the two of us. Both of us studied with Madeleine, Gary was with her in 1984 and I got a Master Chef Diploma in 1985. You see if Madeleine had had a daughter, I think her name would have been Joanne and if she'd had a third son after Neil and A.D., I think his name would most certainly have been Gary. We were lucky, she loved the two of us and forever I will be thankful for two things,- the extraordinary depth of knowledge she shared and for introducing me to my best chef friend, Gary.

And this past Sunday, during SF Chefs 2011, Gary and I did our usual song and dance routine that we've done since the inception of SF Chefs,- we taught a class together.

The first year it was all about tomatoes, the second year we had fun playing with raspberry schrub and on Sunday, we each did a riff on America's favorite sandwich, the BLT. I did a BLT salad and Gary did a BLT soup.

I think you might have the salad recipe already but I thought I'd include it again along with Gary's recipe for the soup. Treasure Gary's recipe! It's rare and very special to get a recipe from him. (I can't wait until he writes his first book.) And make sure you join us next year for our class at SF Chefs 2012.

Read more about BLT at:

BLT – Bacon Lettuce and Tomato Soup


1 pound fresh ripe tomatoes, cored seeded, diced
½ large (4 ounces) red pepper, cored, seeded, diced
1 – 2 small Persian (4 ounces) cucumbers, peeled seeded and diced
2 large leaves (2 ounces) Romaine lettuce
¼ (1-1/2 ounces) red onion, peeled, diced
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 small cloves (1/8 ounce) garlic, peeled and smashed
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Puree all ingredients in a high speed blender until smooth. Strain through a sieve and chill completely. Serve cold.


Chopped Romaine lettuce
Diced tomatoes
Diced red peppers
Diced rendered bacon
Brioche Croutons
Chopped chives


½ loaf coarse textured bread
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
6 slices thick-slice apple-smoked bacon, ½" pieces, about 6 ounces
12 cups mixed baby salad greens
8 ounces various colored cherry tomatoes, halved
1 clove garlic
3 tablespoons homemade mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat an oven to 400F.

Tear the bread into ¾ to 1-inch pieces. Alternately you can cut the bread into ¾-inch cubes. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Bake in the oven, tossing half way through, until crisp and golden, 8 to 10 minutes.

Place the bacon in a large frying pan over medium heat. Cook, turning occasionally, until the bacon is golden and crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and drain on paper towels. Reserve. Remove the pan from the heat. Let the pan cool 5 minutes.

In the meantime, place the salad greens and cherry tomatoes in a large salad bowl.

Drain all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pan. Add the garlic, mayonnaise and vinegar to the pan and whisk together. Season with salt and pepper. Add the vinaigrette and the bacon to the lettuce and tomatoes and toss together. Serve immediately.

Serves 6

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

greek salad recipe

I'll never forget the first time I had a Greek salad in Greece. It was filled with big chunks of green tomato. One bite explained everything.... In Greece, green tomatoes are sweet, juicy and delicious, nothing like the green tomatoes we fry in the US.

I want to be in Greece right now sitting along the water, drinking a Mithos beer and eating grilled octopus and a Greek salad filled with those green tomatoes. There's something about the beautiful blue water, the simplicity of the food, the meze or small plates, the fresh fish and really flavorful vegetables.

And now, when everything is at it's peak, this is the time to make Greek salad. Start with the freshest height-of-the-summer tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions and red bell peppers. I love to add lots of fresh spearmint and Greek oregano sprinkled onto the top. If you can find a pot of fresh Greek oregano, all the better.

One of the coolest things I found on a recent trip to Santorini were brined and jarred caper leaves. I bought a few jars and have been chopping them and putting them on top of my Greek salad ever since. I've never seen them in the US but I really like the sour kind of zing they add.

And make sure you throw in some good Kalamata olives and crumble feta onto the top. I love Mt. Vikos barrel-aged feta from Greece. I think it's the best. Have you found any other source for feta that's better?

And no vinegar! I only use a sprinkle of sea or kosher salt and a good dose of really good extra virgin olive oil.

Grilled lamb chops, a simple piece of grilled fish or hell, anything along side. That's dinner! Hey I might even make one tonight. If I close my eyes, I can only imagine that the tomatoes are green.

Dad's Greek Salad from Simply Recipes
Greek Salad from The Pioneer Woman
Recipe for Chopped Greek-Style Salad with Red, Yellow, and Orange Bell Pepper from Kalyn's Kitchen


3 large ripe tomatoes, about 2 pounds, coarsely cut into 1 to 1 ½-inch pieces
1 small red onion, 1-inch dice
1 red bell peppers, coarsely cut into 1-inch pieces
1 English cucumber, unpeeled, 1-inch pieces
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
3/4 pound feta cheese
1 cup Kalamata olives
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano
2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped caper leaves (optional)

Place the tomatoes, onions, peppers and cucumber on a serving platter. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt.

Season with salt and pepper. Crumble the feta over the top. Sprinkle the olives, oregano, mint and caper leaves over the top and serve immediately.

Serves 6